Popular US-based user recommendation website Yelp launched today in Australia. First launched in San Francisco in 2004 by founders Jeremy Stoppelman and Russel Simmons, Yelp has grown to 14 countries and more than 61 million monthly unique visitors.
Aussies are now able to create accounts on Yelp to share their opinions about local businesses and services in their neighborhoods. Yelp’s free iPhone and Android mobile applications are available, as is Yelp for Business Owners, the company’s free suite of business owner tools.
Stoppelman was in Sydney today talking to a handful of bloggers about how Yelp was created to replace Yellow Pages, who he considered a dead tree business crying out for reinvention. Initially the Yelp founders didn’t believe user reviews would be key to the site but were surprised when they took off and became the main focus of Yelp and a major point of differentiation. Remember, this was back in the days before Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and even newcomers Oink and Roamz.
For millions of US users, Yelp has become an invaluable search resource to discover what’s nearby and how its rated.
It’ll be interesting to see how Yelp does launching in a new market 7 years later with many other location and recommendation contenders on the scene. Stoppelman is confident that the site can get good traction in Australia via their (rather ironic) partnership with Sensis (publisher of Yellow Pages) who provide the initial database of businesses and the sales force for future ad sales. Certainly the Yelp model of engaging community manager in each territory will go a long way to determining the public take-up of the service.
Yelp will be available throughout Australia; however, the company will focus its initial community-growth efforts in Melbourne and Sydney. This city-by-city expansion strategy has proven to be an effective one for the company in other markets.